Speed Review: Guillotine
Guillotine – This game has been on my “to review” list for so long. We first got our copy back in 2015, when we were first starting to take board games really seriously as a hobby. It was a cheap(ish) card game we could buy and try to get into, something that could help introduce us to new mechanics and new styles of play.
Before I proceed, however, I feel like I need to put a disclaimer in this review. Regular readers of this blog know I don’t really care about winning when playing games. For me, that just isn’t the point; however, I have to point out that my opinion may be somewhat jaded on this review. For, although we have played this game literally hundreds of times, I have won but twice. I have to admit – I am a little bit bitter about that.
In fact, I have actually worked out the mathematical formula to show my wins in Guillotine, where “x” is the number of times we have played:
Okay, let’s quit mucking about and get to this review.
What is a Speed Review?
For those who don’t know – a speed review is where I foolishly aim to write a review in less time than it takes to play the game. In this case, it is 30 minutes. I am starting to write this at 11:30pm, so the latest I can finish this review is midnight – although we’ll aim to get through it quicker than that.
Speed Review: Guillotine
The Rules of Guillotine
Guillotine is a hand management points-based card game, designed by Paul Peterson and distributed by Wizards of the Coast. An interesting fact, Peterson also designed Smash Up, which is an amazing game.
In it (Guillotine that is), you play the part of executioners in Renaissance France. The game is played over three days, and each day a series of nobles are lined up in front of you. It is up to you, by playing action cards to manipulate the line, to pick and choose the best nobles for your pile. Each turn you pick the front noble in the line and add them to your pool. These are each worth points.
So, for instance, the front of the line may be:
Piss Boy, Unpopular Judge, Mary Antoinette
By default, without playing any cards, you would pick up the Piss Boy, who is worth 1 point. So, instead, you play a card that lets you move Mary Antoinette forward two places. She is now at the front of the line, and you pick her up instead, gaining 5 points.
To give you an idea of gameplay, Board Game Geek lists only two mechanics for the game – hand management and take that. Although to be fair, it also has elements of set collecting, but it is not an integral part of the game.
At the end of the three days, which are the three rounds in the game (not three literal days), the person with the most points wins. It is that simple, and in a way, its simplicity is where the beauty of the game lies.
Commentary on Guillotine
“Wait, what?” I hear you cry, “but we thought you were jaded about this game?”
Oh, dear reader, worry not. I am jaded about this game, but I am happy to admit that I am jaded for all the wrong reasons. Guillotine is, at its very core, a stunningly simple game that can provide hours of entertainment. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s horrible, and I have threatened to leave my girlfriend more than once due to this game. In fact, it has become something of a meta-joke to bring it out, purely because I dislike it so much – but that doesn’t make Guillotine a bad game.
You see, Guillotine has also become a staple in the board game world for a reason. It is widely recognised as a game worth playing, and coming out in 1998 there are a lot of games that have since taken inspiration from its rules. It has something of a legacy that is often recognised by some of the press around the board game industry.
I would even go so far to say that we have broken it out on a few occasions with different groups of different styles of gamer, and Guillotine always proves popular. It is a fun filler game that can be played regularly, whilst also having had a fairly active community in the past who have posted all kinds of variants on sites like Board Game Geek.
That being said, Guillotine is a game that suffers from the same kind of stigma that music by Elvis or The Beatles suffers from. It may have been one of the original games to use this kind of hand management/take that combo of mechanics in this new board game Renaissance of ours; however, that doesn’t make it the best. Times have moved on and the genre has become refined.
As such, if I were to be completely objective for a moment (and trust me, I really don’t want to be) my biggest sensible criticism would be that the game hasn’t aged well. The whole game needs a bit of a visual refresh, and the whole package needs to be updated. It’s flimsy and card, and not overly a box to be proud of to have on your shelf. Meanwhile, the gameplay may be timeless, but that also means that it can get stale.
Some of the cards also have special rules.
That being said, these are small criticisms. If you haven’t ever played Guillotine then for a relatively small price it may be worth picking it up, if only to own a piece of a gaming legacy that has lasted and evolved to this very day (20 years since its original release). Guillotine is not a bad game, and it is currently ranked within the top 1000 on BGG.
That being said, I have a friend who has the perfect word for describing games like Guillotine. For me, this game is: “fine”. Make of that what you will.
So, what do you think of Guillotine? Do you enjoy the game, do you dislike it, or do you, like me, think it is okay? Let me know in the comments below.